December 22, 2010 08:23:30pm
IA texts on iPad
A while back, I posted here a wish-list and some comments about reading Internet Archive texts on tablet computers such as the Apple iPad. Thanks to some advice I received here, I think I have now realized the nearly ideal reading experience for IA texts, and I'd like to share it with you. The comments below apply specifically only to my set-up (an iPad with a MobileMe account with books managed on a Macintosh computer), but most are probably adaptable to other portable readers, such as the Kindle, Nook, and others yet to be released.
First of all, I have no big problem with reading on computer screens--I do it for hours a day, most days--but I find it difficult to concentrate on long texts, such as novels or narrative nonfiction, when reading off a computer. Tablets are much better for that purpose.
Second, there are some issues with reading IA texts on tablets. While the recently improved in-browser reader is great for what it does, it requires an always-on Internet connection, which I often don't have when commuting. The lack of persistent bookmarks and any library-organizing function make it less than ideal for reading books.
Files downloaded from IT have several problems as well. Most of the PDFs do not display properly on the iPad (apparently because of an issue with the JPEG compression system used in the PDF files), and those that do are very slow to appear on the screen when pages are turned. The DVJU files are much lighter, but there are not yet any programs for displaying DJVU files full-screen on the iPad. (There are some iPhone applications that can do the job in 2X mode, but they lack a lot of desirable features. The Stanza application can convert DJVU to PDFs internally, but the resulting files are huge and the application sometimes crashes and loses data.)
Based on some suggestions I received here, the solution I've found for reading a scanned IT book on my iPad is the following:
(1) Download the book's DJVU file from the link under "All Files: HTTP."
(2) Open the downloaded file using the freeware DjView application.
(3) In DjView, export the file as a PDF, setting the PDF options to around 150 dpi and the JPEG quality to about 85%. (Higher resolution and quality don't seem to be necessary, and they can slow down performance considerably.)
(4) Add the resulting PDF file to iTunes on the computer that is synced to the iPad, and sync the iPad to the computer.
(5) Read the books on the iPad using the iBooks application.
With a (nonfree) MobileMe account, the books, bookmarks, current reading location, and book collections can be synced automatically among multiple iPads, iPhones, and iPad Touches (though not yet with a regular computer).
With scanned books that started out with not-too-large page sizes and not-too-small type, the reading experience is wonderful--I feel as though I am sitting in the depths of a university library somewhere immersed in an obscure but fascinating book I've discovered when in fact I am on a crowded commuter train between Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan. Many, many thanks to all the people at the Internet Archive and the cooperating libraries who have helped to make this possible.
Just as reference, some of the books I've read or am now reading in this way are:
"Life and Adventures of Israel Ralph Potter"http://www.archive.org/details/israelralphpotter00pottrich
"London Characters and the Humorous Side of London Life"http://www.archive.org/details/londoncharacters00mayhuoft
"The Evolution of English Lexicography"http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924006755239
I look forward to reading hundreds more.